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MeLE PCG03 mini PC Review and Benchmarks with Windows 8.1 with Bing

January 29th, 2015 5 comments

MeLE PCG03 is an Intel Atom Z3735F mini PC with 2GB RAM, and 32GB eMMC. I’ve already posted some pictures of the device and board, and since Windows 8.1 with Bing NTE (with proper license) is installed, I’ll first test the device with Microsoft OS as reference, before trying Ubuntu or/and Android.

MeLE PCG03 Setup

The computer comes only with a power adapter, so you’ll need to find an HDMI or/and VGA cable for your display(s), and USB keyboard and mouse to get started. Optionally, you’ll also want an Ethernet cable, and since storage is limited an extra storage device be it a USB hard drive, flash drive, or SD card.

Once all is connected you can press the power button on the left side to boot the device. The boot normally takes about 20 seconds, but the first time, you’ll go through the usual Windows 8.1 setup (I assume), including country, time zone and language selection: 中文简体, 中文繁體, English, Français, Deutsch, Italiano, Nederlands, espanol, Português (Brazil or Portugal), русский, Čeština, slovenščina, ,فارسی Polski, українська, العربية  or .עברית If your local language is not listed then you are out of luck.

You’ll also have to create a local account, or sign-in with an MSN account, and you should be done. So the process is pretty much straightforward.

Windows 8.1 Interface (Click for Original)

Windows 8.1 Interface (Click for Original)

mele_pcg03_resolution

Click to Enlarge

The screenshot above is after cleaning up the junk a bit, and adding my own app. The box is connected to my 4K TV, but the maximum resolution supported by the device is 1920×1080, and the lowest 1024×768. You may also connect an extra monitor via the VGA port for a dual display setup. I’ll demo this below in this post.

Mele PCG03 System Info

Let’s get some more details about the system.
mele_pcg03_PC_info
As advertised the system comes with a Z3735F processor, 2GB RAM, and the 32-bit version of Windows 8.1 with Bing activated. I also received a Windows Update while testing. The company also told me it would be possible to recover the firmware, but did not provide a link. They’ve just provided their FAQ explaining how to upgrade the firmware, and configure other things like audio and video output.

mele_PCG03_storageThere’s a 28.7GB partition out of the 32GB eMMC, and about 16 GB free space. The screenshot above is after installing Firefox and Crystal Disk Benchmark.

mele_pcg03_device_manager_large

Click to Enlarge

The Device Manager shows the list of devices, but we already knew about the hardware with tear-down. Realtek RTL8723 (BS) is also used in Meegopad T01 and Pipo X7, which should be good news for Android and Linux support.

mele_pcg03_hwinfoI ran also HWiNFO32 to get more details about the CPU, which is incorrectly detected as Z3735D, but the other information should be correct, as both processor are very similar.

In case you wonder about the BIOS, it’s basically the same AMI Bios as other Intel Atom Z3735F devices.

AMI BIOS UEFI 2.3 (Click to Enlarge)

AMI BIOS UEFI 2.3 (Click to Enlarge)

You can watch that video to see all options. This is for MeegoPad T01, but the BIOS is bascially the same, except the one in PCG03 has been built one month earlier.

MeLE PCG03 Benchmarks

PCMARK 8 is a standard benchmark for Windows, and covers lots of area include office use, video conferencing, gaming, web browsing and so on. I downloaded the basic version, and ran the baseline test.

mele_pcg03_pcmark_8

PCMark 8 on MeLE PCG03 (Click to Enlarge)

MeLE PCG03 gots 1,105 points in PCMARK 8 HOME CONVENTIONAL 3.0 test. The software somehow detected an Intel Core i7-5960X…
It’s the first time I’ve run this benchmark so looked for some comparison online. For example an Intel Core i7-920 processor with Nvidia GeForce GTX770 gets 2,610 points. I was expecting a larger gap, but if you look into the details, you’ll find that Casual gaming  is 10 times faster in the more powerful computer.

I measured the temperature on top and bottom of the enclosure right about the benchmark at respectively 39 °C and 46 °C, so that part is under control.

The internal storage is a Samsung eMMC 5.0 flash, and performance does show.

mele_pcg03_disk_benchmarkMeLE PCG03 Usability Testing

Benchmarks are nice, but nothing it worth and hands-on experience, so I’ve shot a video showing the device, some settings including storage and display,  and tasks that may be challenging in competing ARM Linux hardware platforms:

  • Web Browsing in Firefox
    • Loading CNX Software
    • Playing an Embedded Video
    • Playing a 1080p Video in Full Screen mode
    • Playing a flash game  (Candy Crush Saga)
  • Gaming with Asphalt 8
  • Kodi with 4K video playback
  • Dual display support with HDMI TV and VGA monitor

The refresh rate of my camera and the 4K TV does not match, so at time (desktop and web browsing), the video is a pain to watch but hopefully, it will give an idea of the performance and capabilities of this mini PC.

So overall the device is quite usable, but I experienced obvious stuttering while playing 1080p YouTube videos (Embedded or Full Screen), and animation in Candy Crush Saga were pretty slow. The good news was I could play some 4K videos in Kodi (albeit outputted to 1080p), and Asphalt 8 is running reasonably well, although a higher frame rate would be nice. With the wave of Intel Bay Trail mini PC, the VGA port is clearly a strong point of this box, especially dual display is working as it should. If you really intend to use this device as a PC for web browsing, emails (Outlook. Thunderbird),  and an office suite, you’ll likely to run out of space pretty quickly, so an external storage device is a must.

Mele_PCG03_Blue_Screen_Of_Death

If you miss Microsft BSOD, don’t worry it’s alive and well! :) This happened when I connected the hard drive via a USB hub, instead of directly to a USB port on the device. Maybe a power issue?

That’s all for today. I’ll write a separate post to thoroughly test video playback in Kodi Windows, and then try alternative operating systems such as Ubuntu and Android, and compare how they perform versus Windows 8.1.

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MeLE PCG03 Windows 8.1 Fanless mini PC Unboxing

January 26th, 2015 11 comments

MeLE PCG03 was announced in October 2014 with an aggressive price tag of $49 for large orders for barebone systems, and was said to support Windows 8.1 or Android 4.4. MeLE is PCG03 now is now available with 2GB RAM, and 32GB eMMC, and with a properly licensed “Windows 8.1 with Bing NTE”, but no Android for $149 on Ebay, or Aliexpress, and it should eventually show up on MeLE Amazon store. The company sent me a sample for review, so I’ll start by listing the updated specifications, and taking pictures today, before running benchmarks, trying out Kodi, and trying Ubuntu in other posts.

MeLE PCG03 Specifications

The look of the device and available ports have slightly changed since the first prototype was revealed last year.

  • SoC – Intel Atom Z3735F “Bay Trail” quad core processor @ 1.33 GHz (Bust freq: 1.83 GHz) with Intel HD graphics
  • System Memory – 2 GB DDR3L
  • Storage – 32 GB eMMC + SD card slot (up to 512 GB)
  • Video Output – HDMI 1.4, and VGA
  • Audio I/F – HDMI, 3.5mm earphone jack
  • Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 4.0
  • USB – 3x USB 2.0 host
  • Misc – Power Button, power LED, Kensington security lock, small battery (for RTC?)
  • Power Supply – 12V/1A (12W max)
  • Dimensions – 150 x 120 x 40 mm
  • Weight – 360 grams

The system runs “Windows 8.1 with Bing NTE”, the official Microsoft operating system for mini PCs according to MeLE.

MeLE PCG03 Unboxing Pictures

I’ve received the device by Fedex in the following package.
Mele_PCG03_Package
The number of accessories is quite minimal compared to ARM based Android mini PCs with just a 12V/1A power adapter, and a Quick Start Guide.

Mini PC, Power Supply, and Quick Start Guide (Click to Enlarge)

Mini PC, Power Supply, and Quick Start Guide (Click to Enlarge)

The device’s enclosure is made of two parts with the top made of plastic, and the bottom and rear panel made of metal.

MeLE PCG03 (Click to Enlarge)

MeLE PCG03 (Click to Enlarge)

The front panel has an LED, abnd button (with no purpose), one side comes with a USB 2.0 host port, an SD card slot, and the power button, and the reat panel features most of the ports: kensington slot, power jack, VGA output, HDMI output, Ethernet port, two more USB 2.0 host port, the Wi-Fi antenna, and the earphone jack.
You can check out the unboxing video if you prefer.

MeLE PCG03 Tear-down

My favorite part of the unboxing post is to open the box to see what’s inside, and MeLE PCG03 is made to be opened so everything is pretty straightforward and comes out easily. First remove four screws on the bottom of the enclosure, and two screws on the rear panel to lift up the plastic top.

Top of Board (Click to Enlarge)

Top of Board (Click to Enlarge)

The solution is comprised of a baseboard and a system-on-module. The Wi-Fi module is based on Realtek RTL8723BS. Other chips on the baseboard include ASIX AX88772CLF USB 2.0 to Fast Ethernet controller, Realtek ACL5640 multi-channel audio hub, and Analogix ANX9833 DisplayPort to VGA adapter. Intel Atom Z3735F being mostly a tablet SoC, they had to use a few extra chips to add missing features like Ethernet and VGA output, btu I guess it’s a bit still cheaper than using more powerful Bay Trail-D processor like Celeron J1800. Three headers are unpopulated on the right of the board, but I’m not sure what they are for.

Bottom and Board and "Heatsink" (Click to Enlarge)

Bottom and Board and “Heatsink” (Click to Enlarge)

I’ve removed four more screws to completely take out the board.  There’s an opening on the baseboard to let the Intel processor touch the thermal pad placed on top of the metallic case.

Bay Trail CPU Module (Click to Enlarge)

Bay Trail CPU Module (Click to Enlarge)

Finally, I’ve taken out the CPU module by removing two tiny screws, and pushing on the metallic bits on the side of the connector. I assume this is a proprietary solution so if somehow you could upgrade the module it would have to be purchased from MeLE, but with USB 2.0 and Fast Ethernet, I’m not sure an upgrade would be that interesting any way. Intel Atom Z3735F is the shiny chip in the center of the board, and is coupled with four Samsung K4B4G1646q-HYKO DDR3L chips, and a Samsung KLMBG4GEAC-B031, a Class 2000 eMMC 5.0 flash with 32GB capacity and read and write speed rated respectively at 240 and 60 MB/s. X-Powers AXP288 is the power management IC.

 

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Mele PCG03 Intel Quad Core mini PC Sells for $49 and Up (Factory Price)

October 13th, 2014 19 comments

Mele is currently showcasing a mini PC powered by Intel Atom Z3735D quad core processor at the Hong Kong Electronics Fair, and the company has started taking OEM orders for $49 (MOQ 1000) for the barebone model without memory.

Mele_PCG03

Mele PCG03 Specifications:

  • SoC – Intel Atom Z3735D “Bay Trail” quad core processor @ 1.33 GHz (Bust freq: 1.83 GHz) with Intel HD graphics
  • System Memory – Optional 1 or 2 GB DDR3
  • Storage – Optional 16, 32, or 64 GB eMMC + micro SD slot
  • Video Output – HDMI 1.4, VGA and Composite (RCA),
  • Audio I/F – HDMI, Stereo RCA, optical S/PDIF, and MIC and earphone jack.
  • Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi
  • USB – 2x USB 2.0 host
  • Power Supply – N/A
    Mele_PCG03_Rear_Panel

The box will run either Windows 8.1 or Android. I’m a little confused to what “barebone” means for this type of mini PC because the DDR3 and eMMC chips are most probably soldered to the board, so a barebone model would simply be unusable. Or maybe my assumption is wrong, and you can insert SO-DIMM modules. On the video & audio front, Mele claims it can handle 4K UHD / 1080p videos and Live TV, VOD, XBMC, YouTube, Netflix… apps, as well as Dolby Digital and DTS.

Via Cngadget

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MeLE V10 Android TV Box Features an Internal SATA Bay, HDMI In, USB 3.0 and Gigabit Ethernet

August 28th, 2014 6 comments

Like UyeSee T1H, MeLe V10 is a quad core Android TV box powered by Mstar 9810 with HDMI In, USB 3.0 and Gigabit Ethernet, but adds an internal SATA bay supporting either 2.5″ or 3.5″ hard drives or SSDs. It also comes with better specs by default with 2GB RAM, and a 16 GB eMMC flash.

MeleV_10_TV_BoxMeLe V10 specifications:

  • SoC – Mstar MSO9180 quad core ARM Cortex A9 @ 1.5GHz with a quad (or octa-core ARM Mali-450 MP GPU @
  • System Memory – 2GB DDR3 @ 1866MHz?
  • Storage – 16 GB eMMC flash, internal SATA bay for 2.5″ or 3.5″ hard drive or SSD up to 3TB, and an SD card slot
  • Video I/O – HDMI 1.4a out up to 4K30, HDMI in, AV (CVBS)
  • Audio I/O – HDMI in/out, optical S/PDIF, AV port
  • Video Playback
    • MPEG-1/2, MPEG-4, DivX, H.264, H.265/HVC, VC-1, H.263, Real Media, MVC…
    • Up to 4K, 60Mbps (H.264)
    • 3D H.264 MVC Decoder/H.264 Encoder (720P)
  • Audio Formats and Codecs
    • MPEG, WMA, WAV, APE, OGG, FLAC, ACC, MPEG1,MPEG2(Layer I/II), MP3, AC-3, E-AC-3, AAC-LC, WMA, HE-AAC.
    • Dolby Digital Plus/Dolby TrueHD/DTS-HD MA 7.1ch pass-through
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, 802 b/g/n Wi-Fi with external antenna
  • USB – 2x USB2.0 host ports, 1x USB 3.0 host port, 1x USB 3.0 device port.
  • Misc – IR receiver
  • Power Supply – 12V/2A
  • Dimensions – N/A
  • Weight – N/A

Mele V10_Rear_Panel

The box is said to run Android 4.4. I’m not sure which accessories are included, and it’s not available on Aliexpress yet. AndroidPC.es reports the box sells for around 160 Euros ($210) in China, and that there will be a version for international market with a different firmware. I could also find it on a little known website called iAndroidTVBox for $219. You can also find more details and pictures in Chinese on Mele BBS.

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Categories: Android, Hardware, Mstar Tags: Android, media player, mele, stb

Mele F10 Deluxe Air Mouse Review

August 3rd, 2014 15 comments

Mele F10 is an air mouse using 2.4GHz RF technology, that can be used as a remote, a QWERTY keyboard. and  a wireless mouse. That’s my favourite input device for Android TV Box, and I use it regularly for my product reviews.The company has now introduced an improved model called Mele F10 Deluxe with trick mode buttons, a gaming mode thanks to a gyroscope, and an IR learning function to use it as a universal remote. Mele sent me a sample for evaluation, so I’ll start with some unboxing pictures, and comparing it to the original Mele F10, before testing the remote.

Mele F10 Deluxe Unboxing

I’ve received the air mouse in the package below that highlights the four main features: Air mouse, Game Controller, Wireless Keyboard, and IR Learning.

Mele F10 Deluxe Package (Click to Enlarge)

Mele F10 Deluxe Package (Click to Enlarge)

WE’ll find the air mouse, a tiny RF dongle, a USB cable for charging and user’s manual describing the button, and explaining how to use it, especially the IR learning function.

Mele F10 Deluxe and Accessories (Click to Enlarge)

Mele F10 Deluxe and Accessories (Click to Enlarge)

Let’s compare it with the original F10 model.

Mele F10 vs Mele F10 Deluxe - Remot Side and Dongles (Click to Enlarge)

Mele F10 Deluxe vs Mele F10 – Remote Side and Dongles (Click to Enlarge)

The number of buttons are the same, but they’ve reorganize the key mapping. It’s clearly an improvement as I never used the 8 buttons key on the Mele F10, except Mute, and there are now Mute, prev and next, play/pause button on the first bottom row, and Game, My Box, STB and TV on the bottom row for gaming mode, and IR functions. The only downside is that the mouse button to enable mouse mode is also left click, so you may click when you just want to enable the mouse. The previous mouse button, as been replace with the A.I Power button for IR remote controls. They have miniaturized the RF dongle even further, and although it’s nice in the way, it’s easier to lose, and harder to differentiate with other tiny USB dongles I have.

Mele F10 vs Mele F10 Deluxe - Keyboard Side (Click to Enlarge)

Mele F10 Deluxe (Top) vs Mele F10 (Bottom) – Keyboard Side (Click to Enlarge)

The keyboard side has also changed, as they added a mouse left and right buttons, and the game button, slightly shuffling the keys around. I’m not a big fan of having the Esc and Backspace at the bottom, but I understand choices had to be made, and it’s a plus not to have to turn the remote each time you want to use the mouse mode. There’s still no Tab key to switch between fields, but the down key works most of the time. Other change, not shown on the pictures, has been the replacement of the mini USB port for charging the built-in 500 mAh battery by a micro USB port.

Mele F10 Deluxe Review

The remote is supposed to work in Linux, Android, Windows and MaC OS X, and does not require drivers. I started by plugging it to my Ubuntu 14.04 computer, and it was immediately recognized and usable. But I did most of the testing on an Android TV box, namely Tronsmart Vega S89 Elite. Again, the system had no problem recognizing the RF dongle, and I could use the air mouse straight-away. One complain I had with the original Mele F10 is that the mouse pointer alignment drift over time, and I had to recalibrate it manually, by hitting the sides of the screen. This is clearly an annoyance, but somehow I could get used to. The Mele F10 Deluxe does not have this problem anymore, either because they improve they algorithm, or they get some help from the added 6-axis gyroscope. That’s definitely a plus.

I planned to test the play/pause, prev and next keys with XBMC, but for some reasons it was gone from my box, and I had troubles installing it. So instead I tried the play/pause key in YouTube, and prev/next key to play music, both of which worked just fine. The mouse button, also acting as the left click, is used to enable the mouse, which can be problematic as you may click without meaning to. The mouse will be disabled after one minute of inactivity, and you need to press the mouse button again if you plan to use it. The keyboard works very much like the Mele F10, and I don’t really have complains, except for the missing tabulation key.

One of the new feature is a “Game Controller” mode. There’s only one sentence on the user’s manual about this: “Press Game button to enter into game mode”…. right, it does not help, does it? I guess the remote is suppose to be used like a wheel drive, just like you would do when playing with a tablet thanks to the gyro. So I setup Riptide GP2 and Beach Buggy Games to tilt mode, confidently at least one of them would work, but tilting the remote did nothing at all. First massive failure.

The second major feature is the “IR learning function”. What can go wrong here? Everything is clearly explained in the user’s manual, so I started with recording the main keys of the TV remote control. All keys can be programmed on Mele F10 except Power, Game, My Box, STB and TV buttons. After I thought I had successfully programmed the remote control, I gave it a try, and…. it did not work. Trying again with just the volume+ key, and it failed again. Then I switched to my aircon remote control. no luck. Second massive failure.

You can also watch the video review below, where I compare Mele F10 to Mele F10 Deluxe,  try a few working features, and showing how Game mode and IR learning functions did not work for me.

In conclusion, despite Game mode and IR learning function disasters, Mele F10 Deluxe is a better air mouse than Mele F10 thanks to an improved control of the mouse pointer, and more useful keys (play/pause, prev/next) on the remote side. [Update: I’ve used it more, and when clicking with the OK button, the mouse pointer may jump, and this does not seem to happen with the L mouse button. This can get really annoying, and holding the remote to click the L button instead feels a little awkward]. Mele F10 Deluxe can be purchased for $34.99 on Mele’s Aliexpress store, but I understand you can get $5 discount by mentioning you’ve been referred by CNX Software in the comment field, bringing the price down to $29.99 (Chat with them first to confirm). There are also other sellers on Aliexpress that sell it for the same price, and it can be found on DealExtreme for $31.92. For reference, the original Mele F10 now sells for $27.30 on DX, and as low as $22.49 on Aliexpress.

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VidOn.me AV200 Android TV Box Review

July 7th, 2014 1 comment

After providing some pictures of VidOn.me AV200 media player, and its PCBA, it’s now time for a review. I’ll start by giving my first impressions, and checking out the system settigns and user’s interface, go through my library of video test files, and cover most hardware features. As usual, I’ll also test Wi-Fi performance, but I’ve now added more tests including Ethernet performance, and USB hard drive support and performance with NTFS, FAT32, EXT-4, and BTRFS partitions.

First Boot, Settings and First Impressions

The device comes with an IR remote control with lots of buttons, including shortcuts, D-Pad control, digit keys and trick modes (play/pause, fast forward and rewind, next and previous), but the two required AAA batteries were not included, and I did not have spare batteries, so I did not use the remote control, which looks pretty OK for XBMC, and just control the device with my Mele F10 air mouse. I’ve connected an Ethernet cable, the provided HDMI cables, the Mele F10 USB RF dongle, and the power adapter to boot the device. It took around 40 seconds to reach the user interface, which looks pretty similar to the one provided with many recent firmware on devices such as Tronsmart Vega S89 or SZTomato M8.

VidOn.me_Android_Home_Screen

At the top left of the screen, clicking on the VidOn.me logo redirect you to their website. The small top right icons are for Download (with download speed shown in real-time), App (Kill, Move to SD card or Remove), Network connection, and date and time. The large icons in the center of the screen are for VidOn XBMC, and “folders” for TV shows, movies, games and music applications. The lower row is composed of icons redirecting to the list of apps, a file manager, and custom system settings. The Add icon allows you to add your preferred app to the row for faster access. The user interface resolution is stuck to 1280×720.

There are quite a few common pre-installed apps including Chrome, the Play Store, Gmail, YouTube, Pandora, Netflix, Pinterest, Skype, Fadcebook and Twitter. I had no problem installing other apps with Google Play.

The “Setting” menu gives you access to the settings shown in the same Metro-style with four sub menus: Network Settings, Display Settings, “Volume” Settings and Others Settings. Network settings let you choose between Wi-Fi and Ethernet almost no problem here, except the vey first boot, Ethernet is set by defautl as fixed IP without any IP, so you have to go to the Android Settings menu, via the Other Settings menu to configure Ethernet, not that user’s friendly… The Display Settings provide menus top configure HDMI output to 720p 50/60, 1080i 50/60 and 1080p 24/50/60, as well as slider for overscan adjustment. The  “Volume” settings are actually audio settings, that let you select the Audio output (HDMI or 3.5mm audio jack), whether it’s connected directly to a TV or via a decoder amplifier (pass-through), and adjust the volume. “Other Settings” are not settings at all, but report the model (Android Blu-ray Box), thefirmware version (V3.1.3), the MAC Address, and the n-board storage (1GB app partition, 4.14 GB internal SD card). There are also two buttons” System Upgrade” which allows for OTA or local upgrades, and “Advanced Settings” that are the Android settings you can find on any Android device.  There’s not much to see over there, except the kernel version is 3.3.30, and developer options are enabled. Ethernet configuration must also be done in the Android settings…

The device has been released last year, so I was expecting a super stable firmware, and it’s working pretty well most of the time, but I did get two random reboots, and once XBMC would not start at all, and I had to reboot to recover. There’s a power button on the device and one the remote, I did not test the latter, but pressing the former really shuts down the device properly, which is a plus.

Video Playback

The box comes pre-loaded with a special version of XBMC called VidOn XBMC Pro which I used for testing video playback. The first time you start the app, you have to register with VidOn.me and  login, or you can’t use XBMC, and I found that quite annoying. But I was pleased to be asked if I wanted to receive an automatic upgrade for XBMC, which I downloaded only to be told there was not enough space! That’s a new device where I only install 2 or 3 small apps (Root checker, and screenshot apps). That’s the result of silly partitioning like I had on my Android phone with 1GB for apps, and 4+ GB for data which is never used. So I used the App tool the provided to move some apps to the internal “SD Card”. When I went to XBMC again, they had to re-downloable the fully update yet again, which takes about 5 minutes, before it got successful…

But after a poor user experience due to forced registration and  problems with installating an update, I was pleasantly surprised as the user interface is very smooth and rendered @ 60 fps (1280×720), and I did not experience any slowdown.

Let’s start with video playback. Unless otherwise noted, the videos are played from a SAMBA share on Ubuntu 14.04 using the Ethernet connection of the device. I had no problem for SAMBA configuration in XBMC nor ES File Explorer.

Videos from samplemedia.linaro.org:

  • H.264 codec / MP4 container (Big Buck Bunny), 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • MPEG2 codec / MPG container, 480p/720p – OK; 1080p – The video can play but there seemed to be some sort of screen/color blinking every few seconds.
  • MPEG4 codec, AVI container 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • VC1 codec (WMV), 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • Real Media (RMVB) – The video can played but lots of frames are skipped.
  • WebM / VP8 – 480p/720p/1080p is – OK.

I’ve also tested some high bitrate videos:

  • ED_HD.avi (1080p MPEG-4 – 10Mbps) – Lots of frames skipped and massive audio/video sync issue
  • big_buck_bunny_1080p_surround.avi (1080p H.264 – 12 Mbps) – OK.
  • h264_1080p_hp_4.1_40mbps_birds.mkv (40 Mbps) – OK
  • hddvd_demo_17.5Mbps_1080p_VC1.mkv (17.5Mbps) – OK
  • Jellyfish-120-Mbps.mkv (120Mpbs) – Some buffering occurs, and the video is not really smooth at anytime. Tested using a USB hard drive (EXT-4)

I’ve also tested common audio codecs below using downsampling:

  • AC3 – OK
  • Dolby Digital 5.1 / Dolby Digital 7.1 – OK
  • TrueHD 5.1 & 7.1 – OK
  • DTS-MA and DTS-HR – OK

Even there’s no Blu-ray drive to be seen, AV200 is sold as a “Blu-ray” player, as it is supposed to play Blu-ray. I could play Sintel-Bluray.iso in XBMC without issue, and navigate between chapters. 3D Blu-ray are also supported, but I’m not sure how to test it yet.

I’ve also tested several 4K Videos since AllWinner A31 SoC does support 4K decoding, but unfortunately hardware decode does not seem to have been implemented in XBMC:

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 (60 Mbps) – Audio cuts after 2 seconds, and video is very slow.
  • Sintel.2010.4K.mkv – Very slow playback, frames skipped.

I also tested several AVI, MKV, FLV and MP4 videos, and they could all play. Finally, I also played some “motion bar” videos to check 24Hz, 23.976Hz, 50Hz, 59.940Hz, and 60Hz support, but there seemed to be jitter a bit all the time, so results are not conclusive.

Links to various video samples used in this review and be found in “Where to get video, audio and images samples” post and comments.

Network Performance (Wi-Fi and Ethernet)

I used to test only Wi-Fi, since I believed Ethernet performance would be pretty similar in all devices, but I’ve changed my mind, and will now provide both Wi-Fi and Ethernet performance results. The test consist in transferring a 278 MB file between a SAMBA share and the internal flash, and vice versa, repeating the test three times. Transferring the file between flash and SAMBA took 1:49 (2.55Mb/s), and in the reverse direction it’s a bit slower as it took 2:18 (2.01 MB.s). There was very little variability between the test which is nice, and on average the transfer was performed at 2.25MB/s, a pretty decent result.

AV200_Mele_M9_WiFiCS868, Mele X1000, and AV200 (aka Mele M9) all happen to have a metallic casing, and I wonder if it could be related in any way to Wi-Fi performance, albeit T428 also comes with a metallic enclosure but does not fare that well.

The Ethernet test does not really test pure Ethernet speed, but a common use case transferring the same 278 MB between SAMBA and the internal flash. From SAMBA to the flash was done @ 3.43 MB/s (1m21s), and from the internal flash to SAMBA @ 4.27MB/s (1m05s).

Miscellaneous Tests

Bluetooth

There’s no Bluetooth support in both the hardware and firmware, so even external USB Bluetooth dongles won’t be supported.

External Storage

I could use an SD card formatted to FAT32 successfully.
I’ve also purchased a USB 3.0 hard drive that I partitioned in 4 with NTFS, EXT-4, FAT32, and BTRFS. Here are the performance results achieved by copying files between the internal flash and the partitions.

File System Read Write
NTFS 6.17MB/s 5.05MB/s
EXT-4 Not supported
FAT32 6.31MB/s 13.9MB/s
BTRFS Not supported

I used a stopwatch, and did the transfer with ES File Explorer waiting for the transfer window to disappear. I mention this detail because the transfer is reported as finished much earlier, but ES File Explorer appears to flush the file to disk for a few more seconds (around 20) before the transfer window is closed.I used a stopwatch, and did the transfer with ES File Explorer waiting for the transfer window to disappear. I mention this detail because the transfer is reported as finished much earlier, but ES File Explorer appears to flush the file to disk for a few more seconds before the transfer window is closed.

The read transfer speed is unfortunately not representative of the true speed as it must be limited by the internal flash write speed. I also tried to copy from FAT32 to SAMBA but it’s even slower. I’ll need to find another way…

Gaming

I’ve tested two games: Angry Birds Star Wars, and Beach Buggy Blitz. Both are running fine, including Buggy Blitz set to maximum graphics settings.

VidOn.me AV200 Benchmark

I’ve just run one quick benchmark (Antutu) since AllWinner A31 is not exactly new, to check there was not performance issues.

Antutu Benchmark Results (Click to Enlarge)

Antutu Benchmark Results (Click to Enlarge)

A 11399 score for a quad core Cortex A7 @ 1 Ghz seems about right, considering a Rockchip RK3188T (4x Cortex A9 @ 1.4Ghz) now gets around 14,000, so the score is probably helped by the PowerVR GPU.

Conclusion

VidOn.me AV200 is performing quite well, especially when it comes with video playback, but I feel a little worried that I had 2 automatic reboot during my day of testing, especially since the device went through several firmware iterations.

Let’s summarize the PROS and CONS

  • PROS
    • Smooth and fast firmware.
    • Custom version of XBMC with Blu-Ray ISO and 3D support, and HDMI pass-through
    • Very Good video formats/codecs support
    • High quality metallic enclosure
    • Good Wi-Fi performance
    • OTA firmware and XBMC upgrades
  • CONS
    • Stability problems.
    • Their XBMC version requires registration and login to VidOn.me
    • 4K hardware video decoding not supported, at least in XBMC
    • Poor partitioning of the flash, leading to problems to install apps or updates.
    • Device is sold out, and can only be obtained as second hand, or by buying Mele M9.
    • Further firmware updates very unlikely due to above reasons.

VidOn.me AV200 has one of the best, if not the best, audio/video format/codec support I’ve ever seen from the device I tested, baring lack of support for 4K, H.265, and some visual effects in one of my MPEG2 files, but I tend to test recently released device, and the VidOn.me team had more time to iron out issues with this media player, which makes the two reboots I had all the more disappointing, but maybe I was just unlucky, and it did not happen during video playback (One in ES File Explorer, and one in the System Settings).

As mentioned before, you can’t buy VidOn.me AV200 anymore, but it’s the same hardware as Mele M9, and according to reports you can install VidOn.me firmware on Mele M9 or A1000G.

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Unboxing of VidOn.me AV200 Android Blu-Ray Box

July 5th, 2014 5 comments

I had only reviewed on device based on AllWinner A31 before, namely CS868 mini PC which turned out to be disappointing. And recently I’ve reviewed quite of few Amlogic and Rockchip TV boxes, so I’m happy to get a change and try again with another AllWinner A31 based device thanks to VidOn.me AV200 Android Blu-ray Box. I’ll start by listing hardware specifications and showing pictures of the device and the board today, and I’ll write a complete review in a few days.

VidOn.me AV200 Specifications

AV200 is an Android TV box with a metallic enclosure very similar to the one used for Mele X1000 Android Blu-ray box, and with the following specifications:

  • SoC – AllWinner A31 quad core Cortex-A7 @ 1.3GHz with PowerVR SGX544MP2 GPU
  • System Memory – 2GB DDR3
  • Storage: 8GB + SD/SDHC card reader
  • Video Output – HDMI
  • Audio Output – HDMI, optical S/PDIF, and 3.5mm headphone jack
  • Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi
  • USB – 3x USB host ports, 1x micro USB OTG
  • Power Supply – 5V/2A
  • Dimensions – 190x124x45.4mm

AV200 runs Android 4.2.2 with an “enhanced version” of XBMC 12 supporting hardware video decoding, HD audio pass-through, Blu-ray navigation and 3D playback and a few other features such as a crash reporting system. It’s also supposed to support 1080p24.

AV200 Unboxing Pictures and Video

I’ve received the device in the simple package below that reads “VidOne.me Android Blu-ray Box”

VidoOn.me_AV200_PackageAs you open the box you’ll see two QR codes linking to VidOn.me player for Android phones or tablets. I’ll try that during the review.

AV200 and Accessories (Click to Enlarge)

AV200 and Accessories (Click to Enlarge)

The box comes with an IR remote (2x AAA batteries not included), an HDMI cable, a 5V/1A power adapter, and a Quick Start Guide in English, but with links poiting to setup instructions in simplified and traditional Chinese, Korean, French, Japanese, German, and Spanish.

VidoOn.me_AV200

A closer look at the device shows a nice metallic casing, a large Wi-Fi antenna, a USB port and SD card on one side, and at the back, an audio jack, a micro USB port, a power jack, an HDMI connector, an RJ45 port, two USB host ports, and an optical S/PDIF output. There’s also a power button, a small window for the IR receiver, and an LCD display at the front.

I’ve also shot an unboxing video for those interested.

AV200 Internal Pictures

Opening the box is fairly easy. There’s nothing under the rubber pad, so you can leave them in place. You just have to remove 4 screws, and slide the top cover. You’ll also notice the “Upgrade” button on the middle left of the picture below.

Bottom of AV200 (Click to Enlarge)

Bottom of AV200 (Click to Enlarge)

Once it’s opened we can actually three boards: the mainboard in blue, and the LCD and power button boards in Green,.

AV200 Board (Click to Enlarge)

AV200 Board (Click to Enlarge)

The board name is A31-G39A04-V1.30 and it has been designed on 2013-09-17, the MAC address starts with 00:CE:39, a range which interestingly is not assigned to anybody, and the Wi-Fi module used is based on Realtek RTL8188ETV. Searching for the board name, let me to an older article about a Mele media player, and it turns out it’s basically the same hardware as the Mele M9. Other interesting bits are the unsoldered pads: option for an extra 8 GB flash,  SATA connector + USB to SATA chip, etc… And if you want to have a similar model with SATA, Mele A1000G is apparently also based on G39A04. The firmware provided by VidOn.me is different than the one that’s available from Mele, so that will be the key differentiating factor here.

Cooling is achieved with a small heatsink on top of AllWinner A31. To further remove the board from the enclosure, you have to remove four more screws. But after doing that the board would not still come off, because there’s some thermal paste stick the PCB to the metal case, which should be good news in terms of thermal dissipation. Since I’ve not done the review yet, I decided against taking it further apart as it might affect performance.

I’d like to thanks VidOn.me for providing the sample. AV200 normally sells for $200 on VidOn.me, but it’s currently out of stock, and the site reads “new box is coming soon…”, and I could not find another place to buy AV200… So the only option appears to get a Mele M9 which for once appears the be the cheapest on DealExtreme ($110).

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Giveaway Week Winners Announced

June 26th, 2014 5 comments

Regular readers will know that I organize a giveaways last week, with Linux and Android based TV boxes and TV dongles based on Amlogic, Rockchip, and Telechips processors, a total of 8 devices with a combined value closed to $1,000 if purchased new. I’ve now selected all the winners, and send the devices, so it may be nice to list them in one post, even I announced each individual winners in the comment section of each contest.

Android_TV_Box_GiveawayWithout further delays, let’s go through the winners and their country of residence, with links to the original individual winner announcements:

Parcels (Almost) Ready to Send

Parcels (Almost) Ready to Send

All parcels have been sent today by Airmail (Thailand Post), and I hope the winners will receive them soon, and enjoy their little gift! For others, hopefully, I’ll get more devices to organize another giveaway week in a few months.

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